Health Insurance as a Productive Factor
71 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2012 Last revised: 16 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 15, 2016
In this paper, we present a less-explored channel through which health insurance impacts productivity: by offering health insurance, employers reduce the expected time workers spend out of work in sick days. Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), we show that a worker with health coverage misses on average 76.54% fewer workdays than uninsured workers, after controlling for endogeneity. We develop a model that embodies this impact of health coverage in productivity. In our model, health insurance reduces the probability that a healthy worker gets sick, missing workdays, and it increases the probability that a sick worker recovers and returns to work. In our model, firms that offer health insurance are larger and pay higher wages in equilibrium, a pattern observed in the data. We calibrated the model using US data for 2004 and show the impact of increases in health costs, as well as of changes in tax benefits of health insurance expenses, on labor force health coverage and productivity.
Keywords: Health, Health Insurance, Labor Productivity, Labor Markets
JEL Classification: E20, E24, E25, E62, I10, J32, J63, J78
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